Breaking the silence

Gay Priest “Bart” continues his weekly series:

I ended my last post by asking: will our silence [forced as it so often is] be judged as complicity in the Church’s deceptive ways? It’s a question that has been troubling me for quite some time now, not only as a gay priest who is going through a coming-out process, but also in the wider sense, as a member of the Catholic Church. Even as I was grappling with this complex subject, I was informed of a recent documentary shown on BBC’s Channel Four. Entitled Father Ray Comes Out, it presents a very touching account of the coming-out of an Anglican vicar – Father Ray Andrews – to his congregation during a Sunday homily. For the benefit of my readers, I thought of embedding the story here (in 2 parts), before expanding on the subject in today’s post.


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Out in Sport: England Cricketer Steven Davies Goes Public

In an ideal world, this should not make the news: sexual lives are personal and private – but we do not live in an ideal world.

Young people need role models. Young boys in particular look to their sporting heroes, far too few of them have had the courage to come out publicly as gay. There are welcome exceptions – and England cricketer Steven Davies has just added to the number, becoming the second British member of a national squad in a major team sport to do so. (The first was Welsh rugby captain, Gareth Thomas).

Steven Davies, the 24-year-old Surrey and England wicketkeeper, has become the latest high-profile sportsman to announce he is gay. In today’s Daily Telegraph Davies becomes the first serving professional cricketer to ‘out’ himself.

Davies, who began his career at Worcestershire, says he hopes his decision will encourage other young gay people to do the same. He said: ‘This is the right time for me. I feel it is the right time to be out in the open about my sexuality. If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become.’

Davies follows the former Wales rugby union player Gareth Thomas, who also went public about his sexuality.

Guardian

The New Statesman makes a bold claim, that Davies’ coming out could be the tipping point for public acceptance and openness in sports, based on the contrast between Davies and Gareth Thomas, who did so at the peak of his career, and with a solid backing of public support . Davies is young, just starting out in his career, and has not yet established that personal following, which made his action all the more courageous. This assertion of a tipping point may be premature – but there will certainly be many more, in Britain and elsewhere, in team sports of all kinds as well as in the individual sporting codes (where there are rather more examples already).

Coming out is a process, not an event. Davies first did so to his family, five years ago, and then to his cricketing colleagues after his selection for the national team last year. He has now gone public. The very many other gay men in professional sport, who remain trapped in a closet of fear should pay attention to his words: coming out can help others – but also themselves. Coming out is a relief.

“I’m comfortable with who I am – and happy to say who I am in public,” he said in an interview with The Sun.

“To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about.”

Davies, who missed out on a place in the England squad for the current World Cup campaign, came out to his friends and family five years ago.

But the first time he told any of his fellow players came following his selection for England’s successful Ashes tour during the recent winter.

And he revealed the relief he felt after telling captain Andrew Strauss and the rest of the team.

“It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads. The difference is huge. I am so much happier,” he said.

Daily Mirror

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“The Gift of Gay” – The Priest Who Came Out, aged 90!

Father Matthew Kelty, OCSO, was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he was the last confessor to Thomas Merton. He also came out as gay at the age of 90.

The full obituary is worth reading at Religion Dispatches – I want to reflect only on the coming out story, and Fr Matthew’s assertion that gay is a gift – especially in the pursuit of monastic celibacy.

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Gay priests: Coming Out, Discovering Love – 2

Bart, a gay priest, continues his weekly series of reflections on the challenges and difficulties of coming out for a priest. In this week’s reflection, he begins to tackle the thorny issue of sexual activity:

Having laid down the groundwork by talking more generally about love (not simply love as eros), I will now enter the minefield. That a priest – of all persons – should wish to directly talk about sex is problematic enough. Throw the gay ingredient into the mix and we have a bomb in our hands. So be it! Let’s talk about sex.

I take it to be axiomatic when I say that we are sexed beings. By this I mean that humans are not simply spirits. We are embodied beings, we occupy space, and one of the major characteristics of this body is that it presents certain features that we commonly refer to as gender characteristics, male or female, or (more rarely) both. Clearly we are not asexual beings, just as much as we are not disembodied spirits. It is most unfortunate that in two thousand years of Christianity we have not wholly succeeded in coming to terms with both our corporeality and our sexuality. I suspect that the Catholic priesthood is the symbolic locus of this neurosis. Cue the film “Priest” (1994).

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Gay Priests (3): Coming out, discovering love – 1

Bart continues his series of reflections on the challenges of being gay and a priest:

“Things to do before I die:

1.      Fall in love

2.      See the world”

Jim, a 64-year old bachelor jots these words down in his diary on the day of his retirement. This very short to-do list starts off the story between him and Ray, a widowed pensioner, in the BBC film “When I’m Sixty-Four” (2004). Their friendship flowers into love, as both men open up to each other in their desire to break through the walls of isolation and loneliness. The film is very upbeat about the possibility of discovering love at any age, as well as exploring gay love (in Ray’s case, his bisexuality) at a more mature age. Hmmm! I think I got my priorities wrong. Unlike Jim, my “to do” list inverts the order, because I decided to see the world first. Well, the film became something of wake-up call. I distinctly remember telling myself: I sure don’t want to wait until I’m 64 to enter into a relationship! I slowly realised that the isolation and loneliness that seemed to overshadow me, were rooted in my inability to love. I could not love myself, and I had really nothing to offer to others. The reason being that I had so successfully denied the love and feelings I had because I was told that they were not right, unnatural, dirty. Self-hatred took love’s place, as love died a premature death; I was breathing, but dead in my spirit. Coming out of the closet? More like coming out from the grave.

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Come Out, For Christmas?

I’m not the only one arguing for the repeal of the Catholic Church’s own version of DADT.  At the Washington Post, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo makes the same point, adding an argument that I ignored. In days gone by, he says, a Catholic family gathering for Christmas might have quarrelled over a young family member’s improper relationship:

But if families back then anguished over whether or not a ne’er do well nephew was invited to dinner because his relationship to his “girl-friend” was considered scandalous, the debate would have ended if the name of his partner was “Charles” and not “Charlene.”

I’m fascinated by the qualifier of “days gone by” for family disapproval of (presumably) unmarried heterosexual relationships. Is this a tacit admission by Arroyo that modern Catholic families accept the unmarried sexual relationships of their near and dear – as long as they are of the opposite-sex variety?  For divorced relatives embarking in new relationships or second marriages, he makes it explicit:

Many Catholics accept divorced and remarried relatives at a Catholic Christmas celebration, because “…at least they are happy again.”

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When Will the Catholic Church Repeal Its Own DADT?

My colleague Bart and I clearly think along the same lines. This was his response to my post on the repeal of DADT:

When is the Catholic Church going to follow suit? The way the Church leadership is dealing with the issue of the gay clergy within its ranks is similar in many ways to the DADT story in the American military. When will the Church enter the 21st century?

As his comment came through, I was halfway done with preparing a full post on precisely this theme. It was this observation by Rep Tammy Baldwin that initially set me thinking:

Integrity is a hallmark of military service. Yet, for 17 years, we have had a statutory policy that requires some in our military to conceal, deceive, and lie.  This is an inexcusable affront to all who wear the uniform.

Change a word or two, and precisely the same thing could be said about gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church. If it is true (and it is) that integrity is a hallmark of military service, so it should be even more so in the Church. DADT in the Catholic church most directly affects our gay priests, presenting them with a major challenge in any attempt to live honest lives of integrity. This is the continuing theme of Bart’s own excellent series on gay priests and his personal struggles with coming out, so I leave the discussion of DADT and priests entirely to him (the next instalment will appear tomorrow morning).

However, Catholic DADT also affects all gay and lesbian lay people, and it this aspect that I address here.

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